In "'You Divided Sea by Your Might': The 'Conflict Myth' and the Biblical Tradition," I analyze the ancient west Asian theme of divine combat between a victorious warrior deity and his enemy, typically the sea or a sea dragon. I show how the theme of combat was adapted within literature from Mesopotamia, ancient Syria, Israel, and Judah; in the first- and early-second-century CE Judean milieu, including traditions focused on Jesus/Christos; and in select rabbinic texts. Authors utilized the conflict topos as a dynamic rhetorical tool for a variety of legitimating and delegitimating purposes. A king, dynasty, group, or institution identified with the victorious deity is legitimated through such association, while those aligned with the defeated sea or sea dragons are delegitimized and appear destined for defeat. I situate my study of the conflict topos within contemporary theorization of myth by Bruce Lincoln, Russell McCutcheon, and Jonathan Z. Smith, who emphasize the political functions of myth. Narratives of divine combat and instances of the conflict motif naturalize socially and politically contingent phenomena, such as the institutions of kingship and temple, specific divine hierarchies, and the authority of particular individuals, by linking them to narrative events that purport to be universal and foundational. My project advances our understanding of the conflict topos in ancient west Asian and early Jewish and Christian literatures and contributes to studies concerned with how mythological and religious ideas are used to validate and render normative particular ideologies or socio-political arrangements, and to delegitimize and invalidate others.
Ballentine, Debra Scoggins,
"'You Divided Sea by Your Might': The 'Conflict Myth' and the Biblical Tradition"
Religious Studies Theses and Dissertations.
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